Using Shame and Guilt as Tools of Discipline

Knowingly or unknowingly, many parents using shame and guilt as a tool of discipline. [Sigh] Yes, I have too. At that point, I wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. The intention was good, alas the method was wrong.

Here’s something I recently learned about shame and guilt that now allows me to look at things from a different perspective.

When we shame a child, we’re essentially telling them – You’re not good enough.

When we make a child feel guilty, we’re telling them – What you’re doing is not very good.

Now imagine you being told, you’re not good enough. Not only are you not good enough, things you’re doing are not good enough either.

Do you know what that does to person, a child? It makes them feel insignificant, tiny and irrelevant. They build a shell around them to protect themselves and get trapped in it for the rest of their lives.

[By the way, if you’re the kind of person who takes pleasure in making others feel little, especially kids, you’re a scum, you’re a disease and I hope you die in your next breath.)

Constant shame and guilt breeds fear in a child’s heart and mind which eventually results in an inability to take action. Every action they wish to take is now evaluated through this lens of failure. And it stops them from doing, or trying anything new.

What if I fail? I know, I’m not good enough. I have all this supporting evidence from my childhood. See? I don’t want to be ashamed. You know what? I’m going to get by without doing this. It’ll be okay. It’s better than being ridiculed anyways.

This ladies and gentlemen, is what the child is thinking, and continues to think even as a full-grown adult.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

When you have fear of taking action, you almost never take any shots, any risks. The result is a life of mediocrity.

If you’re a parent, teacher or a caretaker of a young child, or no matter who you are, I strongly urge you to never use shame and guilt as a form of discipline. The damage is long lasting and irreversible in many cases. No child deserves that.

I hereby pledge not to use shame and guilt anymore. Not now, not ever.

How about you?

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